Posts Tagged ‘movies i didnt get’

Beethoven – A Dog Hater’s Perspective

Posted 22 Aug 2015 — by Ezra Stead
Category Essay, Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead 

Beethoven, USA, 1992

Directed by Brian Levant

Beethoven would seem, at first glance, to be the ultimate dog lover's movie, but it is arguably more enjoyable, and certainly more interesting on a subtextual level, to view it from the opposite perspective. I should start this off by saying that I am not truly a dog hater. Like virtually any human being, I have been known to find dogs charming in small doses, but I would never want to live with one, so I can relate to George Newton (Charles Grodin), the hapless protagonist / antagonist of Beethoven. This would seem, at first glance, to be the ultimate dog lover’s movie, but it is arguably more enjoyable, and certainly more interesting on a subtextual level, to view it from the opposite perspective.

The film stacks the deck against we dog haters from the beginning, opening on an ominously rainy night outside the “Pet Supply” warehouse where evil Dr. Varnick (Dean Jones) conducts his nefarious experiments on innocent puppies. A prime example of this deck-stacking occurs later in the film, when it is revealed just what Dr. Varnick has in mind for poor Beethoven: a munitions manufacturer wants him to “test” a new type of exploding bullet, to see the impact it makes on “big skulls.” While it can be argued that animal testing is worthwhile because of the potential human benefits gained from it, even the most dyed-in-the-wool dog hater would find it difficult to defend the scientific expediency of shooting a dog right in the goddamn face.  Read More

Johnny Dangerously – Sneaky Bastages With .88 Magnums

Posted 30 Jun 2015 — by contributor
Category Essay, Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Mike Shaeffer 

Johnny Dangerously is riddled with sight gags.Johnny Dangerously, USA, 1984

Directed by Amy Heckerling

“I’ve been fulfilling a lot of people’s prophecies about me; I’ve become a real scumbag.” –Danny Vermin (Joe Piscopo)

In 1984, director Amy Heckerling (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Clueless) gave us the comedy Johnny Dangerously, starring a dapper Michael Keaton, fresh off the success of Mr. Mom. Keaton’s performance in last year’s Birdman, which netted the Oscar for Best Picture, was one of his best. It was a delight revisiting his gangster persona to see just how well the actor and this gangster spoof have aged.

One of the first elements that establish this film as a gangster flick is the setting—the Lower East Side of New York City during the height of Prohibition. After a brief set-up introducing Keaton as our protagonist, we flash back to city streets filled with Studebakers, alleys ruled by an Irish mobster called Jocko Dundee, played with humor and charm by the late, great Peter Boyle (Young Frankenstein).  Read More

Maps To The Stars

Posted 24 Mar 2015 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get

By Ezra Stead 

Maps to the Stars, Canada / Germany / France / USA, 2014

Directed by David Cronenberg

Maps to the Stars is gleefully disreputable and never less than entertaining. However, it lacks the narrative focus and thematic bite to rank among Cronenberg's best films. Maps to the StarsIf A Dangerous Method (the end of the Viggo Mortensen trilogy as I like to call it, the first two being A History of Violence and Eastern Promises) shows David Cronenberg at his most respectable, and Cosmopolis presents the Canadian director at his most unwatchable, his latest manages to avoid both of those traps. A sleazy, trashy, dark comedy about the amoral self-absorption of Hollywood, Maps to the Stars is gleefully disreputable and never less than entertaining. However, it lacks the narrative focus and thematic bite to rank among Cronenberg’s best films.

The most coherent and interesting thread to be found amongst the rather large, interconnected ensemble concerns an aging actress (Julianne Moore) angling for the part played by her now deceased mother in a remake of one of the latter’s classic films. She hires an assistant (Mia Wasikowska) who has been disfigured by burns in a house fire she herself started. The mentor-protégé relationship gradually sours to the point of a rather shocking conclusion, and an earlier scene in which the pair sing and dance in celebration of the tragic death of another actress’s small child is easily the funniest moment in the film.  Read More

Dukin’ It Out With The Babadook

Posted 17 Mar 2015 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Mike Shaeffer 

The Babadook, Australia / Canada, 2014

Written and Directed by Jennifer Kent

The Babadook is a thriller that depicts the downward spiral of an increasingly unhinged single parent.“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.”

― Emilie Buchwald

When marketing an independent film, producers want a trailer that will reel in any number of demographics. Their targeted audience may be those who love a good thriller, but the product is cross-marketed as a horror film or a psychological drama. Such is the case with the Australian outing The Babadook, released in the U.S. last November. While this film owes a bit to the horror genre, it works most effectively as an emotional thriller. Not only does it fit best within the thriller genre, it is most chilling when the ambiguities are cemented in the notion that this is not a supernatural haunting akin to The Amityville Horror; this is not some spin on the Necronomicon— the cursed book of flesh from Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead franchise. The Babadook is not a modern take on The Bad Seed, nor does this film involve cursed ground filled with angry spirits a la Poltergeist. The Babadook is a thriller that depicts the downward spiral of an increasingly unhinged single parent. The mother desperately loves her child, but she is overwhelmed, inept, and unable to combat the depression, fear, and anxiety she suffers after losing her husband and having to raise her boy alone.  Read More

Ezra’s Favorite Movies Of 2014

Posted 17 Feb 2015 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead 

The Lego MovieThis was the year I realized that my annual goal of seeing pretty much every movie released in a given year was more impossible than ever. The reason for this is the exponential growth in the number of films now being released in the digital age. When I started doing these lists back in 2001, there were about 300 official releases per year; now it’s closer to 700. With that in mind, I’d like to start with a partial list of movies I meant to see in 2014, but just didn’t get to in time. Then, to acknowledge the relatively arbitrary nature of these lists in general, I’m listing my Top 10 in categories by which each film corresponds to another one from my Top 20 (only the Top 10 is ranked in order of preference). It’ll make more sense as you read it, I promise.

WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN (40 movies I didn’t see in time for this list, in alphabetical order): Bird People; The Boxtrolls; Calvary; Chef; Citizenfour; Coherence; The Congress; Enemy; Fading Gigolo; Filth; Force Majeure; Foxcatcher; Frank; Fury; Gloria; Happy Christmas; Ida; Joe; A Letter to Momo; Leviathan; Life After Beth; Like Father, Like Son; Lucy; Men, Women & Children; A Million Ways to Die in the West; Mr. Turner; Moebius; A Most Violent Year; Night Moves; Palo Alto; The Rocket; The Sacrament; St. Vincent; Song of the Sea; Starred Up; Stonehearst Asylum; Top Five; 22 Jump Street; Virunga; Wrinkles.

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Ezra’s Six Days Of Christmas Movies

Posted 23 Dec 2014 — by Ezra Stead
Category Essay, Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

A Muppet Christmas Carol is a delightful and remarkably faithful adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic. Yes, I know this should be “12 Days of Christmas Movies.” Listen, it’s the holidays, guys; cut me some slack. Anyway, Christmas is far from my favorite holiday, as evidenced by my much more thorough Halloween article (over four times as many movies in that one, folks!), but I wanted to take some time this year to look at some rather off-the-beaten-path movies, as well as a couple I had seen before, but felt it was time to revisit. Here they are, in the order in which I watched them. Happy birthday, Jeebus!

THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL – a delightful and remarkably faithful adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic, starring Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge (Ebenezer apparently went the way of Adolph as a first name choice), Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit, and the Great Gonzo as Dickens himself. The biggest deviation from the source material is the casting of not one but two Jacob Marleys, in the form of crusty old hecklers Statler and Waldorf. Michael Caine gives a typically excellent performance, with far more emotional depth than you’d expect from a Muppet movie, and the film ends on a positive, Sesame Street-esque educational note: “If you’d like to know more, read the book.” ****  Read More

Under The Skin – Pretty Pictures Signifying Nothing

Posted 05 Nov 2014 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get

By Ezra Stead

Under the Skin, UK / USA / Switzerland

Directed by Jonathan Glazer

Under the Skin is all about atmosphere and striking imagery, at the expense of any real narrative or character development. Species is a 1995 sci-fi/horror/action thriller about a terrifying extraterrestrial monster that assumes the physical form of an attractive and notoriously easy earth girl, then uses this form to dupe horny earth men into going somewhere private with her/it. She then reveals her true form and eats them. Or uses them to incubate her eggs. Or something. Point is, the guys meet a messy demise; glorious ‘90s nudity and gore abound. How do you take that basic, very cool idea and make an intolerably tedious art film out of it? Ask Jonathan Glazer.  Read More